EDMONTON -- The Royal Alberta Museum opened its doors to the public on Wednesday with two new exhibits: Quilt of Belonging and Abandoned Alberta.

After closing in December due to COVID-19 restrictions, RAM employees said the museum has come back to life again after undergoing a “rollercoaster” of changes.

“We’re very excited. We’re delighted to welcome visitors back to the Royal Alberta Museum -- it’s wonderful. The museum really feels like its come alive again after being closed,” said Executive Director Alwynne Beaudoin. “We’ve all had to adapt on the fly and adapt very quickly to changing circumstances.”

The museum adapted to the temporary closure by bringing exhibits online for Canadians to experience. “RAM from home” was created to ensure Alberta’s remarkable displays could be enjoyed safely from home. The virtual experience allowed people to stay engaged from home with various programs, talks and virtual displays.

“It gave us an opportunity to connect with many visitors from Alberta. We were able to connect with remote areas,” said Beaudoin.

The museum, which requires visitors to follow social distancing guidelines, wear masks and pre-book a time slot, showcases a display of photos from Edmonton-based photographer Joe Chowaniec. His exhibit, “Abandoned Alberta,” offers a wide range of photographs from “forgotten locations."

“I don’t know what it was but it was something one day where I decided to take my camera with me on a road-trip and I started snapping photos and what I saw in the camera lens just drew me in more,” said Chowaniec.

Capturing approximately three to five thousand photos, the photographer was drawn to the history of Canada.

“I found myself asking more questions and wanting to know more. Why is that church abandoned? Why is that school abandoned?” he said.

Chowaniec has eagerly awaited the opening of the museum to share his photographs with visitors, after travelling a total of 10,000 kilometers to gather Alberta’s unique properties.

RAM also features a collaborative textile known as the Quilt of Belonging. Celebrating the diversity of Canada, the quilt features 263 blocks representing the Indigenous people in Canada and every nation.

The quilt is designed so each visitor can experience a sense of community.

“This piece really represents who we are as a nation. What Canada represents is all these various nations including our Indigenous communities,” said assistant curator for Daily Life and Leisure, Lucie Heins.

The bottom row is referred to as the “foundation” – representing all First Nations, Inuit, and Metis.

“I think what the quilt of belonging does during this time of social distancing and isolation, it reminds us that we are connected. We are united even though we are existing in this new normal of how we interact with each other.”

With files from Touria Izri